Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Draft Japanese Declaration of War on the United States, December 1941 (Not Delivered)

The Japanese decision to attack the American fleet without formally declaring war helped to convince U.S. leaders and the general public that their opponent's behavior was beyond the pale. The Japanese Foreign Office did in fact draft a declaration of war, composed in English, for the Japanese ambassador to hand to Secretary of State Cordell Hull, but Admiral Yamamoto's insistence upon delivering the war's first blow unannounced ensured it was never delivered.

Your Excellency:

I have the honour, under instructions from my Government, to inform Your Excellency that as the hostile measures taken by the United States have seriously jeopardized the security, and therefore existence, of Japan, they have been constrained to resort to measures of self-defense and consequently there now exists a state of war between the two countries.

I am also directed to leave with Your Excellency a copy of the Statement of our Government which sets forth their views concerning the rupture of our relations.

I avail myself of this opportunity to renew to Your Excellency the assurances of my highest consideration.

Statement of the Japanese Government

Being earnestly desirous of the peace of the Pacific, the Japanese Government have consistently pursued a policy of promoting friendly relations with Great Britain and the United States. These relations, however, have suffered a progressive deterioration in recent years largely through the unresponsive attitude of these Powers who have failed to understand the realities of the situation prevailing in our part of the world.

Our cardinal policy aims at inaugurating a new order in Greater East Asia throughout which we are striving to ensure and enhance a common prosperity. It is essentially a policy of peace designed to cultivate the friendship among, and increase the welfare of, the peoples of this vast region. It is a policy calculated to serve the interests of these peoples, redounding ultimately to the benefit of the whole mankind.

Great Britain and the United States, however, have willfully misunderstood our aims and aspirations and, in collusion with other hostile countries, have endeavoured, openly and covertly, to oppose and obstruct the peaceful execution of our constructive policy. The Anglo-Saxon Powers have not scrupled to render active assistances to the Chungking régime, a mere pawn in their game of Imperialist politics, prolonging the latter's futile struggle to the untold misery of China's teeming millions who are becoming increasingly anxious for peace with Japan. By aiding the Chungking régime these Powers have greatly impeded the restoration of tranquility in China and by thus opposing our efforts for a speedy settlement of the China Affair, they have more than forfeited the good will of our people. Anxious, however, to maintain amicable relations with them, Japan has, displaying utmost patience, persevered in the face of provocations hoping that they will reconsider and repair their attitude. It is highly regrettable that these Powers should have failed to respond to our policy and should have, on the contrary, resorted to unfriendly measures, some of them very severe and stringent, vis-à-vis this country.

In these circumstances, Japan concluded the Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy; two leading Powers of Europe who, fully sharing our views, have pledged their willing cooperation in establishing a new order in Greater East Asia. But our association with the Axis Powers has added yet another cause of alienation in our relations with the so-called Democratic Powers who have begun to entertain unwarranted misapprehensions regarding our policy and purposes, despite our repeated assurances that we seek no quarrel with them. Far from harbouring any aggressive design, Japan was, as stated above, bent upon the peaceful initiation of an era of common prosperity throughout the Greater East Asia.

It will be recalled that in August last year Japanese forces were dispatched to Northern French Indo-China in connection with the prosecution of the China Affair. Later on, in summer this year, our forces made a peaceful entry into the Southern region in order to cope with the grave situation developing in the South-western Pacific, due to the rapid augmentation of military measures by the United States, Great Britain and her allies and associates. These Powers chose to regard our peaceful advance into Southern French Indo-China as a menace to their territories and froze our assets in their respective countries, a measure tantamount to a wholesale rupture of economic relations. They have since even gone the length of establishing encircling positions against Japan which, creating an unprecedented tension in the Pacific, has greatly exacerbated their relations with us. The increasing pressure they have brought to bear upon Japan has as its aim no other than our economic strangulation. Sometimes, economic warfare is admittedly more cruel and disastrous than an open resort to arms. Thus the ruthless measures of economic attrition now directed against us constitute a really serious threat, affecting as they deeply do, the very existence of our Empire. In other words, we, as a nation, are faced with the question of life and death. We could not acquiesce in these hostile measures, as it would spell the decline and downfall of our nation.

Finding ourselves in such a predicament, we still patiently endeavoured to find a way out of it. The negotiations at Washington are a case in point.

Our Government have, since April last, conducted protracted negotiations with the American Government with a view to bringing about a friendly and fundamental adjustment of the Japanese-American relations. We were afraid that the steady deterioration of our relations would, if left without a timely check, drift toward an inevitable catastrophe, an awful eventuality entailing immense suffering not only on the countries in the Pacific basin but on the entire mankind as well. We were convinced that, good will animating both sides, there should be no question that is not amenable to amicable settlement. We, therefore, exercised utmost patience and, in the spirit of compromise, proposed many a formula, often involving great sacrifices on our part, to meet the desires of the American Government which were, we much regret to say, not always reasonable nor practicable. In fact, we went to the last possible limit of concessions, short of compromising the honour and prestige as a great Power, in order to satisfy the United States. But the latter has persistently maintained a very rigid attitude, making not the slightest gesture to respond to our sincere efforts to reach a friendly settlement. In short, the American Government were singularly lacking in the spirit of mutual accommodation which is indispensable to a successful conclusion of any international negotiations. They maintained, throughout the course of negotiations lasting more than seven months, their original position from which they stubbornly refused to withdraw even an inch. Thus, it has finally come to the present pass where it can no longer serve any useful purpose by continuing further negotiations. Our untiring and unsparing efforts have been frustrated through the uncompromising attitude of the American Government and we have now been forced, although with great reluctance, to abandon the negotiations and, with that, renounce our cherished desire to come to a friendly understanding with the United States.

With the breakdown of the negotiations, we have thus been led to give up, at last and finally, the hope to find an escape, through peaceful means, from our predicament. At the same time, the hostile ring encircling our Empire is being steadily strengthened day after day, gravely threatening our safety and security. The economic warfare, in its most relentless form, is also being prosecuted with renewed energy against this country. In short, the concerted pressure of the hostile Powers is such that our national existence is now in serious jeopardy. Standing at the cross-roads of her destiny, Japan decided to defend her prime right of existence, a course that offered the only possible way of survival. Our patience finally exhausted and our destiny at stake, the nation has risen, as one man, to meet the challenge. Steeped in the conviction that right always will triumph, our hundred million peoples have girt on the sword of justice, anxious to defend the fatherland and eager to vindicate our glorious cause.

Further Reading
Akira Iriye, Pearl Harbor and the Coming of the Pacific War: A Brief History with Documents and Essays (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 1999), 105–108. Originally published in This Is Yomiuri (Tokyo: Yomiuri Shimbun, 1998), 220–221. .

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